Human Rights Center Announces JUNCTURE, Yearlong Initiative on Art and Human Rights

Seeking to foster new and creative cross-disciplinary approaches to the study and practice of human rights and the arts, the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School has launched a new initiative called JUNCTURE. The initiative features collaborations with the Yale School of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Whitney Humanities Center, and other Yale programs.

JUNCTURE is a yearlong exploration of the rich intersections between art and artistic practices and international human rights that will engage artists, curators, critics, scholars, students, human rights practitioners, and other activists. The initiative includes collaborations with professional artists, including three visual artists and a playwright; a multidisciplinary graduate seminar; fellowships for five Yale School of Art MFA students; a public lecture series; online publications; and an exhibition. In the spring of 2016, the annual Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium, hosted by the Schell Center at Yale Law School, will also focus on the themes of JUNCTURE.

According to David Kim, JUNCTURE’s deputy director and curator, and a student at Yale Law School, “Our philosophy is very much about ‘encounter’ and ‘inspiration,’ and not about making didactic work. Instead, we are gathering talented people for a series of deep, intersecting conversations, and we expect that the results will take a variety of artistic, scholarly, and political forms.”

A key innovation of JUNCTURE is its collaborations with Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani, artists; Dipika Guha, a playwright; and Amalia Pica, an artist. Supported by yearlong grants, these individuals will engage with small teams of graduate students from multiple disciplines in a flexible, open-ended research process toward the creation of new work.

Ganesh and Ghani will develop a project titled “The Afterlives of Black Sites,” a legal, visual, and historical inquiry into former CIA black site prisons.

Guha will develop a script on the politics and poetics of migration, belonging, and human rights.

Pica will pursue a wide-ranging study of “eloquent objects,” that is, art objects that give unique voice to human rights stories.

Another important innovation of JUNCTURE is its pedagogy. The initiative integrates its artistic collaborations with a multidisciplinary graduate seminar, which also functions as an artistic research platform, adapting the model of clinical legal education to art-making. The seminar includes JD, MFA, PhD, and MA students from several Yale departments. Students are reading and discussing scholarship in human rights, legal theory, art history, and philosophy, as well as engaging directly with works of art and drama. In parallel, they are pursuing research projects with JUNCTURE’s collaborating artists.

James Silk, Clinical Professor of Law and director of the Schell Center and JUNCTURE, said, “In the seminar, and throughout the initiative, we are wrestling with questions about the moral and ethical dimensions of representing pain, atrocity, and loss and about the efficacy of putting art to human rights and social justice issues.”

JUNCTURE is sponsored by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, with generous support from the Robina Foundation and the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School.